I once heard a presenter ask a room full of people what they thought about cooking a cheeseburger in their exhaust pipe. The audible disgust was instant. The collective brain in the room immediately shut down the idea. Your brain already knows how to help you succeed – so get out of the way.
This particularly cool, but deceptively sabotaging feature of the brain is known as ‘danger surfing’. Way back when life was a matter of survival, each morning our ancestors would come out of the cave and ‘surf’ the horizon for danger; danger surfing is what saved their lives. We still roam around with that ancient wiring, and understanding it will help you to overcome the sabotage danger surfing can create when your organisation is coming up with the next big idea.
In the workplace
You’ll see danger surfing in your workplace when someone proposes a new idea and the listeners’ instinctual reaction is to find all the ways the idea might fail or hurt the individual or organisation.
So, what do they do? They ‘save people from themselves’ and rip their idea to shreds. Instead of building on the idea the way inventors, innovators and creative types do, they put up a big stop sign. Sound familiar?
Danger surfing sabotages your success. Inventions don’t typically come to light because of all the things you said no to.
Avoiding danger surfing
Here are three ways to avoid a knee-jerk default and consciously override danger surfing to create more successful, creative and positive results.
1. “Yes and…”
Play the “yes, and…” game. Instead of looking for the flaws and saying “but,” let collaboration lead to more creativity.
2. Create and evaluate separately
The formation of ideas and the evaluation of them are two entirely different brain processes. The brain shuts down creativity when you evaluate, so always have two brainstorming sessions – one for creating ideas, and another for evaluating them.
3. Count to ten
It takes approximately six seconds from the time a negative emotion is felt and the dissipation of the hormones that make you want to blurt out a nasty remark. Your mom was right – count to ten before you speak. Let the visceral feelings die down, then speak. And remember to be additive